Republican Karen Handel has won the special congressional election in Georgia, fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff in the heavily Republican House district, according to a projection by NBC News. Handel’s victory in the closely fought contest, which drew national interest and was the most expensive House race ever at over $40 million, comes as good news for President Donald Trump.
Democrats had promoted the contest as a referendum on the president. Rarely, if ever, has a single congressional race attracted this much attention or been freighted with so much meaning. Under the gaze of the national and international press, voters cast ballots they knew would be interpreted as a referendum on Trump, the GOP healthcare plan winding its way through Congress, and so much more.
But despite the adage about all politics being local, national issues clearly motivated voters here — just as they do everywhere at a moment of intense polarization and political engagement. Handel and tens of millions of dollars in ads from GOP super PACs called Ossoff an inexperienced liberal who has more in common with California than Georgia. Ossoff, meanwhile, promised supporters a chance to “make Trump furious” and “send a message that will be heard across the country and around the world.”
As skeptical as these generally well-educated Republicans have been about Trump, many were even more reticent to vote for a Democrat, even one who presents as moderately and even-tempered as Ossoff.